For some reason, a lot of people hate their capital.

Long, thoughtful articles are written about why the Flemish don’t like to go to Brussels, most peripheral French people don’t like Paris, and several of the Brits I know hate London with a vengeance.

Well, sorry to my British friends, but I quite like the place. Mostly cause it’s one of the more… schizophrenic cities I’ve been to.

Of course, most cities have a certain mix to them. They’ll have tiny cobbled streets in older areas, stately facades on wide lanes laid out in times of glory and the occasional modernization project cropping up in between.

But in most cities, all of this blends together seamlessly. If you walk through most cities, it all *fits*. Yes, the streets may be wider or smaller, the buildings different, but every area breathes a common atmosphere. There’s no mistake that you are, in fact, in this or that city: ‘Buongiorno principessa, welcome to Rome.’ It’s in the stereotypes: the badly parked cars and the loudly honking and swearing drivers. But it’s also in the very air, in the sounds and in the smells (coffee, garlic, leather, urine, for Rome).

London doesn’t seem to have that common, typically London atmosphere. And the contrast between its different areas is quite stark. Walking from the Strand into Soho, there’s a very clear line where you hit a different part of the city.

Still, the clichés are there. The ‘mind the gap’ announcer, the queues, the red double-decker busses and telephone boxes, the dreary weather. But somehow they feel like decoration, something left around for the tourists, rather than innate parts of the very fabric of the city.

They feed in to a certain expectations, when real cities are seldom what the stereotypes make them out to be.

There’s even a Paris Syndrome that strikes Japanese tourists who can’t deal with how different Paris is from their expectations fed by movie clichés.

And yes, Paris the real is not like the Paris from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain or Moulin Rouge . But it’s still Paris. And it doesn’t change. It doesn’t suddenly feel unparisian if you walk its back streets (though I was never so bold as to visit the actual banlieu) instead of the walkways along the Seine. The atmosphere stays.

Not so with London, which feels very much like a city that is changing. Like a pubescent youth in the middle of a growth spurt, or maybe like a woman in menopause, I’ll leave it up to you. Shedding off past identities (medieval, Victorian) and finding a new one after 2000 years.

But perhaps I have London mistaken. Maybe the split personality *is* what makes London London. Maybe it simply incorporates both the Sherlock Holmes tiles in the Baker street metro station, the guards in fur hats and the shopping crazed women, the cabs, the subways and the tabloid sellers.

According to a friend of mine, London’s like a country, made up of city states. (Yes, Daniel, I quoted you, and stole the title). Maybe that is its aspect, its personality.

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